Ten Reasons Christians Are Deconstructing Their Faith

I have been observing former students, classmates, and friends deconstructing their faith for years. I have been grieved, puzzled, and angered (at the Evil One) at the loss of once-professing brothers and sisters in Christ. By “deconstructing,” I mean they have turned against their former profession of faith and have denounced Christianity. Some of these can be rescued and some cannot (for reason #10). I will be unpacking each of these over the next ten Fridays. Comments, input, and corrections are welcome.

  1. They have experienced some hurt, trauma, or abuse at the hands of professing Christians, churches, and/or pastors.
  2. They have spent too much time reading, listening, watching, and talking to people espousing weak theology, heresy, and the hiss of the serpent asking, “Did God really say?”
  3. They have wittingly or unwittingly absorbed and adopted naturalistic, atheistic, and hedonistic assumptions and presuppositions and then critiqued the Bible in light of those. As a result they find the Bible objectionable, ludicrous, or repugnant.
  4. They have tired of the scorn, ridicule, and pressure of the unbelieving world, and find it easier to abandon the faith to just get along.
  5. They had deeply-felt expectations for life and what God would do, and when disappointed, could not bear the thought of worshiping the God they feel has let them down.
  6. They have misunderstood and misinterpreted the Bible’s revelation about the character and actions of God, and have come to believe that they are more moral than God, and now stand in condemnation of God’s character and his actions in the pages of Scripture.
  7. They grew up in legalistic churches and families where an abundance of man-made rules were added to the gospel and to God’s moral law. At some point they tired of these oppressive environments and could not separate true Christianity from the legalism, and so left the faith.
  8. They fed on liberal social justice and incipient Marxism, and found the Bible’s acceptance of inequality because of the curse of sin and the Bible’s call to suffering wanting according to their new belief system that salvation is deliverance from inequality.
  9. They simply no longer wished to be bound to the biblical ethic, most often related to the Bible’s clear restriction of sexual activity to one man and one woman in a monogamous covenant of marriage. They wanted to have sex and not feel guilty about it.
  10. They were never true believers to begin with. They are apostates who posed as Christians, very convincingly and for a long time. 1 John 2:19–22 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. [20] But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” (ESV)

Mark Farnham 2016 bio


Mark Farnham is Associate Professor and Coordinator of Pastoral and Pre-Seminary Majors at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. Previously he taught systematic theology and apologetics at the seminary level for eleven years. Prior to that he served as senior pastor in New London, CT for seven years. Mark earned a PhD in Apologetics from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He also holds a Master of Theology degree in New Testament from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity degree from Calvary Baptist Seminary.

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T Howard's picture

I am acquainted with an individual who has "deconstructed" from her faith. She runs a church abuse awareness Facebook page called, Safe Sheep. If you wish, you can read about her story on your own, but it basically falls under #1. Because she experienced what she describes as clergy sexual abuse, and the church where this occurred viewed it and treated it not as abuse but as a consensual affair, she continues to rail against the church and its elders.

Since 2016, when this situation came to light, she has rejected various aspects of biblical Christianity and now evidences #2, #3, and #8. She also has spoken about her complex relationships with family members and how she experienced #7 growing up.

Based on her experience, I would say that deconstruction is not caused by just one of the ten reasons listed. Rather, I'd say that deconstruction occurred because of a confluence of reasons.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The author must first define what "deconstruction" actually is. It could simply mean "re-evaluating certain beliefs I was told must be true," when, in fact, they were not true. In other words, it could be a synonym for "always reforming." Or, it could be someone who says she's "done" with Christianity. It depends on who you're talking to, and that person's context. The author assumes deconstruction = leaving "the truth." That is not always the case. A recent article in ChristianityToday discusses this in a helpful way. That author explains she had to re-frame her concept of God from a "bigger version of me" to God as infinite, otherworldly:

What happened during those early years of my academic study of theology was a kind of deconstruction. More properly, it was a correction. To be disabused of my sense of having comprehended God, initially a worry, has over time become a kind of balm.

That’s because I now better understand what it is to understand. There is a difference between what we do not know, due to our earthly limitations or lack of intellect or experience, and what we cannot know, due to the constraints of human knowledge. Many of our theological problems arise from our inability to tell the difference.

She continues:

It is tempting to treat deconstruction as only an arrogant endeavor, but there are many and varied reasons individuals might want to revisit their Christian practice and belief. Most have to do with doubt about the trustworthiness of former beliefs—and that’s not always bad, nor is it always leaving a good faith for a worse one. 

All this to say that it really depends. Not everyone is Brandon Robertson.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

To those of us of a certain age who grew up in fundamental churches, I'd say we've all experienced #7 to a greater or lesser degree, as this was common in many fundamental churches in the 70's when I was a teenager.  I'd say that unless #10 was also true, which is probably true of a number even in good churches, it would take one or more of the other factors to cause someone to move away from Christianity completely, rather than just correct some of the misunderstandings.

Dave Barnhart

Craig Toliver's picture

Observations on 1-10:

  1. Raise your hand if you've never been hurt? Nobody raises his hand! Same with school, marriage, home, neighbors, club, etc cetera. (I once had a neighbor threaten me with a rifle!). My sister tells me how harsh father was to her! He never whipped her ....  but whipped me (and I love and revere him)
  2. The world - you can't escape it (consider how every national park spins evolution and old earth)
  3. See # 2
  4. There really is little of this in America. We have "not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood". Pakistan is another story!
  5. There will always be wrong expectations (health, wealth, ease) (They missed the book of Job and forgot that John the Baptist was beheaded)
  6. Either the haven't read the Bible or haven't read it carefully)
  7. The old legalism canard. There is less of it than supposed and it's NOT a Galatians style LEGALISM!
  8. The state college system! Someone said: 'If You Are Not a Liberal When You Are Young, You Have No Heart, and If You Are Not a Conservative When Old, You Have No Brain'
  9. Some are "sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. "
  10. This "They were never true believers to begin with."
T Howard's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:
1.Raise your hand if you've never been hurt? Nobody raises his hand! Same with school, marriage, home, neighbors, club, etc cetera. (I once had a neighbor threaten me with a rifle!). My sister tells me how harsh father was to her! He never whipped her ....  but whipped me (and I love and revere him)

Craig, I would pushback on this statement. Being hurt <> being abused and traumatized. Just like being spanked <> being beat and physically abused. You can't just brush off the difference.

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding some of these reasons, it strikes me that some of them, especially #7, seem to represent a walk away from the Gospel by many.  For that matter, so does #1--yes, everybody's been hurt at some point, but to use some examples, what does it say when that hurt is "person was raped because ABWE did not remove a doctor caught in multiple adulteries", or "person was raped because felon was given a master key at SWBTS"?  The failure to promptly apologize for these kind of sins seems to say "we don't believe that sin is sin", and that's at the heart of the Gospel.

We might say that to avoid "deconstruction" among some, we ought to have "reconstruction" of the Gospel among our churches--or at least a strong look at our own culture to see where we fall short.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

John E.'s picture

Number 10 is the answer, which is not to say that churches aren't answerable for how their ethics have hurt and wounded people. Also, the use of "deconstruction" in this larger discussion among evangelicals irritates me slightly (I'm not talking about the article above, writers need to use the terms of the discussion at hand). The article I've linked to below offers what I believe is a better use of the concept as it applies to Christians. As a side note, "dechurched" is another term (buzzword) in the larger discussion that I find mostly contentless. For one thing, the question needs to be asked, "How many of these so-called 'dechurched' grew up in/attended a legitimate church?" Maybe a better made-up term for this group of people is "haveyettobechurched."  

Yes, You Should Deconstruct Your Faith – Practically Known Theology

AndyE's picture

I saw also in my dream, that when the shepherds perceived that they were wayfaring men, they also put questions to them (to which they made answer as in other places); as, "Whence came you?" and "How got you into the way?" and, "By what means have you so persevered therein? For but few of them that begin to come hither do show their face on these mountains." But when the shepherds heard their answers, being pleased therewith, they looked very lovingly upon them; and said, "Welcome to the Delectable Mountains !"

The shepherds, I say – whose names were, KNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE, WATCHFUL, and SINCERE – took them by the hand, and had them to their tents, and made them partake of that which was ready at present. They said, moreover, "We would that you should stay here awhile, to be acquainted with us; and yet more to solace yourselves with the good of these Delectable Mountains ." They then told them that they were content to stay; and so they went to their rest that night, because it was very late.

Then I saw in my dream, that in the morning the shepherds called up CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL, to walk with them upon the mountains. So they went forth with them, and walked awhile, having a pleasant prospect on every side. Then said the shepherds one to another, "Shall we show these pilgrims some wonders?" So when they had concluded to do it, they had them first to the top of a hill called "Error," which was very steep on the furthest side; and bade them look down to the bottom. So CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL looked down; and saw at the bottom several men dashed all to pieces by a fall that they had from the top. Then said CHRISTIAN, "What meaneth this?" The shepherds answered, "Have you not heard of them that were made to err, by hearkening to HYMENEUS and PHILETUS as concerning the faith of the resurrection of the body?"

"And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some." 2 Timothy 2:17, 18

They answered, "Yes." Then said the shepherds, "Those that you see lie dashed in pieces at the bottom of this mountain are they; and they have continued to this day unburied (as you see), for an example to others to take heed how they clamber too high, or how they come too near the brink of this mountain."

Then I saw that they had them to the top of another mountain--and the name of that is "Caution" – and bade them look afar off. Which when they did, they perceived, as they thought, several men walking up and down among the tombs that were there. And they perceived that the men were blind; because they stumbled sometimes upon the tombs, and because they could not get out from among them. Then said CHRISTIAN, "What means this?"

The shepherds then answered, "Did you not see, a little below these mountains, a stile that led into a meadow on the left hand. "From that stile there goes a path that leads directly to Doubting Castle, which is kept by Giant DESPAIR; and these men – (pointing to them among the tombs) – came once on pilgrimage as you do now, even till they came to that same stile. And because the right way was rough in that place, they chose to go out of it into that meadow, and there were taken by Giant DESPAIR, and cast into Doubting Castle; where, after they had awhile been kept in the dungeon, he at last did put out their eyes, and led them among those tombs, where he has left them to wander to this very day, that the saying of the wise man might be fulfilled: "He that wanders out of the way of understanding, shall remain in the congregation of the dead".

"The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead." Proverbs 21:16

Then CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL looked one upon another, with tears gushing out; but yet said nothing to the shepherds.

Then I saw in my dream that the shepherds had them to another place, in a bottom, where was a door in the side of a hill; and they opened the door, and bade them look in. They looked in, therefore, and saw that within it was very dark and smoky; they also thought that they heard there a rumbling noise as of fire, and a cry of some tormented, and that they smelt the scent of brimstone. Then said CHRISTIAN, "What means this?" The shepherds told them, saying, "This is a byway to hell, a way that hypocrites go in at: namely, such as sell their birthright, with Esau; such as sell their Master, with Judas; such as blaspheme the Gospel, with Alexander; and that lie and dissemble, with Ananias and Sapphira, his wife."

Hope. Then said HOPEFUL to the shepherds, "I perceive that these had on them, even everyone, a show of pilgrimage, as we have now; had they not?"

Shep. Yes, and held it a long time too.

Hope. How far might they go on pilgrimage in their day, since they, notwithstanding, were thus miserably cast away?

Shep. Some farther, and some not so far as these mountains.

Then said the pilgrims one to another, "We had need to cry to the strong for strength."

Shep. Aye, and you will have need to use it when you have it, too.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Whenever I hear "deconstruction," I'm reminded of Matthew 12:20, here with some context.

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Mt 12:18–21)

Or as Dr Walter Freemont used to put it, back in my BJU days: reach the reachable, teach the teachable.

I suspect many turn the corner from hurt and disappointment into full blown 'deconstruction' (in the sense of demolition) because we have failed to respond compassionately and honestly/self-critically to them. More listening and understanding. Many of them are, or used to be, bruised reeds and smoldering wicks.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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